Duke routs Winthrop 87-45 in NCAA tourney opener
Tricia Liston scored 20 points and Duke routed Winthrop 87-45 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Freshman Oderah Chidom added 17 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (28-6).
They didn't miss a beat in their first game in nearly two weeks: They never trailed, shot 54 percent and led by double figures for the final 33½ minutes in winning their 21st straight NCAA tournament opener.
In giving the 15th-seeded Eagles (24-9) their worst loss of the season by far, Duke built a 49-23 rebounding advantage and held them to 27 percent shooting — 21 percent in the decisive first half — to advance in the Lincoln Regional bracket.
Big South player of the year Dequesha McClanahan had 22 points to lead Winthrop in its brief first NCAA tournament appearance.
Samiya Wright had 12 points for the Eagles, whose previous worst loss was by 11 to Liberty.
They kept it within eight points against eventual No. 1 seed South Carolina, but were no match for a Duke team that improved to 21-1 in NCAA tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium with 20 straight wins there.
Kendall McCravey-Cooper added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Haley Peters had 11 points and Elizabeth Williams scored 10 for Duke, a No. 2 seed for the fifth straight year.
In each of the last four tournaments, the Blue Devils lost in the regional finals. If the seeds hold, they will face a rematch with undefeated and top-seeded Connecticut with the Final Four on the line.
Then again, it's always dangerous to peek too far ahead in a bracket, and there was a visible reminder of that Saturday in the Cameron crowd: Duke men's forward Rodney Hood, who has more free time than expected after his team was knocked out a day earlier by Mercer.
Coach Joanne P. McCallie's team — which had been off since its 69-53 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament final — was never in danger of joining the men in going one and done.
Duke shot 55 percent in the first half and used an early 15-3 run — jump-started by consecutive 3s by Liston less than a minute apart — to push its lead into double figures for good. The Blue Devils then erased all doubt by closing the half with 12 straight points after Winthrop had crept within 12.
Richa Jackson's steal and layup with 33 seconds left before the break made it 41-17 at halftime.